One of the reasons I am a Pastor today is because of a guy named Otis who was a missionary with a youth outreach ministry called Young Life. Their purpose is to equip and send adults onto High School campuses with the good news of Jesus. Otis was nearly 26 years old when I first met him, but I was pretty confident that he was borderline elderly! We may have only been 10 years apart, but to a 16-year-old boy, that might as well be an eternity. And yet, Otis persisted in pursuing me and my group of very lost friends. Eventually, after a lot of hard work and persistence, my friends and I learned to respect Otis, even if we didn’t listen to the talks that he tried to give at our weekly meetings that Young Life called “Club.”

One day, after months of diligent outreach, Otis picked me up from school. It happened to be a few days after he noticed I came to Club high, so it was an extra long and awkwardly quiet drive to his house that day. After parking his car, he turned to me and asked me a question I’ll never forget. He said, “Josh, what are you doing?” That was it. However, to me, it was as if he had shared the four spiritual laws on top of the Romans Road because my heart was convicted. I knew that I had disappointed Otis, but I also knew that he loved me anyway and wanted what was best for me. Right then and there, I realized that I needed to change and I have been living for Jesus ever since.

Otis didn’t need to preach me a sermon because by that point he knew I had heard more Christian sermons than most people get to hear in a lifetime. You see, I wasn’t the typical lost kid who didn’t know Jesus, I was a prodigal. I ran away from my faith even though I’d received all the advantages of a loving Christ-centered, evangelical, Christian home. My parents loved me well! They took me to church on Sundays, then on Sunday nights, and then we went back again on Wednesdays just in case. I was a veritable connoisseur of Christian summer camps. I responded to more old-fashioned altar calls than I can remember. But none of that seemed to matter when I was 16. I was lured away by “a far country.”

I honestly don’t know where I would be if God had not sent Otis into my world with such grace and patience . . . with such a heart for prodigals. Do you know any prodigals who have been lured away from their faith? Maybe God wants to use you in their life today. My encouragement to you is to have patience. Spend time getting to know them. They probably don’t need another sermon. Instead, love them, and when they mess up, don’t rub it in their face, but maybe just take the time to ask them how they are doing. Maybe then, the kindness of God, as revealed through your kindness, will lead them to repentance (Romans 2:4).

Josh Rose
Discipleship Pastor

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